Turkey began with a problem at the border and ended riding out in driving rain, but the intervening seven days were overwhelmingly good. The first problem was when reality dawned on me that you need to show your log book at borders. Mine was safely stored in Wales. This created a great deal of problems at the Greek/Turkish border, eventually resolved by peeling the chassis number from the bike to provide evidence for the mandatory green card insurance that you must buy at the frontier. The second problem to materialise shortly afterwards was that our Garmin GPS doesn’t work in Turkey. Whilst Istanbul is well sign-posted, finding a small hotel in Sultanahmad (the old city) would be more challenging.
The plan was well established. We would ride to Istanbul and then meet four people (respective girlfriends and a couple) who were flying out from the UK at the pre-booked hotel in Sultanahmad. Some frantic emailing and texting at the border ensured that my log book would be brought to Istanbul.
Turkish roads are at best variable, whilst the Turks themselves are invariably friendly and helpful. The ride to Istanbul was straightforward with two overnight stops, the second only a short-distance from the city. We had failed to buy a map of Istanbul so Mark planned a route into Sultanahmad using Google maps and using his GPS as a compass. The plan worked surprisingly well and we located the hotel with relative ease.
Three nights spent at the hotel were interspersed with two nights spent on Princes’ Island, an hour and a half on the ferry from Istanbul in the Sea of Marmara. Cars are essentially banned on the Island, so transport is by foot, or horse and buggy. There is also an elderly man at the port who will load your bags onto a trolley and push them uphill to your hotel for the price of a small dwelling on the Island. He doesn’t reveal the cost until he has completed the trip, with theatrical pauses to catch his breath and to take on water. It’s a great performance but not worth the money.
From Turkey we crossed the border into Bulgaria and then onto Romania. A night in Bucharest in a small hotel close to Ceausescu’s palace. It was close enough to stroll down the wide boulevards to get a good view of the enormous and imposing building. Apparently he bulldozed schools and hospitals to create the Bucharest that is a monument to his megalomania.
From Bucharest it was onwards north into Transylvania. Some great mountainous scenery and some fantastic twisty biking roads. A twenty mile backtrack to view “Dracula’s castle” – good to see the Romanian’s finally catching on to tourist opportunities.
One of the great things about this trip has been the kindness of strangers. Two hotels in recent days have offered us parking for the bikes behind locked gates. On neither occasion did we ask for this. On each occasion the bikes have still been there next morning.